Despite spending $14 million over the past 10 years on research and regulatory approval, the Florida Citrus Commission has put an indefinite hold on moving forward in commercializing a harvest efficiency improvement chemical.
"It's not done; it's in neutral," said commission chairman Marty McKenna, a Lake Wales-based grower. "At this point, we've got to reallocate our resources."
The chemical in question is CMNP, which loosens the bond between the fruit and the stem, making harvest easier, by hand or machine. The EPA has delayed a decision on approval that was initially expected this month.
The unanimous decision to hold off on release comes after continuing decline in crops necessitated the trimming of a further $1.3 million from the Florida Department of Citrus budget. $2.2 million had already been cut in December.
"Most of us expect further reductions," said Commissioner Michael Haycock, a vice president at Tropicana Products, Inc. in Bradenton, the state's largest citrus juice processor.
The commission approved a staff recommendation to discontinue funding to AgroSource, Inc., which it hired to manage the EPA registration. The contract called for a payment of $23,800 by February 28.
The cutoff date was added in May after Taw Richardson, AgroSource CEO, said EPA officials had promised to make a final decision this month.
But on January 25, Richardson told Citrus Department officials he withdrew the registration application after a December 13 meeting with EPA officials, who requested further testing to support CMNP environmental effects, according to department records.
Although the Citrus Commission cut off funding, AgroSource's contract runs through September 2016, or until the company brings CMNP into commercial use. If the EPA approves the chemical, the contract gives AgroSource an exclusive license to manufacture and sell CMNP.